A mineral supplement is something that is ingested by people or given to animals to compensate for mineral nutrients not provided by their diets in sufficient quantities. The human body requires a vast number of different vitamins and minerals to stay healthy and active, as do the bodies of most animals. Typically, these nutrients are provided by diet, though many people's diets lack at least a few different minerals that are needed for the body to be totally healthy. A mineral supplement, which can include one mineral or many different minerals, is made to compensate for whatever is missing.
There are a few different factors that can lead to one's diet containing insufficient nutrients. Some people take a mineral supplement because they simply do not wish to spend the time to quantify all of their food choices to ensure that what they eat has enough of all of the minerals they need. Others take a mineral supplement because they have specific tastes in foods that they do not wish to deviate from, but they also do not want their health to suffer. Some individuals have medical conditions that prevent their bodies from properly producing, extracting, or processing certain minerals; these people take mineral supplements out of necessity.
The term mineral, though still used, is technically archaic when used to refer to dietary minerals, as the category of dietary minerals includes far more than just the various solids which are produced through geological processes. The dietary minerals provided in a mineral supplement are the simple chemical elements that are required by many of the chemical processes occurring in the body. They are only simple elements and ions, not compounds. While it is possible to get most of the necessary minerals through common foods, some are less common. Iodized salt, for example, is considered a mineral supplement because it contains iodine; iodine deficiency is a major cause of mental retardation.
A mineral supplement can be consumed in a variety of ways. Most commonly, supplements are combined in tablets or pills that can be swallowed or chewed. Sometimes, they are given in a powdered form that can be mixed with drinks. As is the case with iodized salt, necessary elements or ions can be mixed in with various foods and consumed while eating. Some dietitians simply recommend a change of diet to bring about the necessary change in mineral intake. Whatever the method of ingestion, the minerals are digested and used in whatever processes the body needs them for.